If you're ready to relax and read a happy autism-filled account of Christmas then turn off now; what I'm about to give you is a heavy dose of the truth.
We live in social media fuelled world where we all enjoy reading a hard luck story that comes good. Our Christmas newsfeeds are filled with smiley family pictures, mountains of presents, glorious Christmas dinners and messages of good tidings for one and all because that's what we come to expect and nobody wants to write about what a miserable fucking day they've had because nobody wants to read it.
Well I do.
I want to know that I'm not the only one who has had a tough day, whatever the reason is.
I want to know that I'm not the only one thinking 'Is your life actually that perfect?'
Year on year I wait for my child to 'get' Christmas. We go through the motions of writing a letter to Santa and asking for what presents he'd possibly like. I arrange the visit to the Big Man himself and have attempted the tradition of leaving something out for him and his reindeer on Christmas Eve. As of yet, I haven't got on board with the Elf game or Santa footprints and for one reason only.
I'm often accused of being bah-humbug but the reality is when your son doesn't feel the Christmas excitement, despite your best efforts it feels like a kick in the teeth. There is nothing more soul destroying knowing you have exhausted yourself physically and mentally preparing for the festivities and it passes like most other days with the dreaded question - "Where's Joseph's iPad?"
On Christmas Eve, I tried to whip him into a frenzy by reminding him every thirty minutes or so "Guess who's coming tomorrow?" "Grandma" was his usual response. When he did actually recite the desired answer, it didn't register in the way it should and there was no hint of excitement. I even wondered whether our sleep would be more disturbed than usual by the very fact that I had told him twenty-teen times that some guy would be wandering round the house in the night leaving presents. Was I trying to create excitement or scare the shit out of the kid?
Amazingly, he was not the first awake and actually slept later than usual. This may have been because he was shit scared to get out of bed for fear of who was in the house or it could have been because he has no love for Christmas yet.
We all went downstairs together and guided Joseph towards his pile of presents. He glanced across and asked where the iPad was. I explained that there would be no iPad and encouraged him to open his presents.
In all fairness, he humoured me and unwrapped them all, dutifully saying at regular intervals "Oh look, it's a..." And when they were all unwrapped, he looked for and found the iPad. I removed said iPad and hid it in the cupboard wondering whether today was the day to get into an argument around it and whether it would be more appropriate to let him do as he pleased.
We hurriedly built the lego, the playmobil and I said fuck under my breath at least fifteen times, wondering why someone had not discovered a niche in the market for parents (and children) who have no desire to build the shitting things and just want the finished article. It was all hands on deck to get them built as quickly as possible so that Joseph wouldn't ask for the (bastard) iPad again. He took one look at the finished articles and said "Where's the iPad?"
I gave in and handed over the (bastard) iPad, because that's what Christmas is all about isn't it? Biting your tongue, keeping everyone happy. There was only one thing for it, a run. So I charged my new all singing and dancing Garmin (actually it doesn't do either but does do more things than I need it to) and I went for a run. My beautiful Garmin that can tell me how shit I am at running, but makes me happy nonetheless.
And the law of life says that we should be grateful for what we have as there are people worse off than us; this is indeed true. I have my child (who does not understand or love Christmas) and there are others who have seriously ill children and clutching on to every last bit of hope in their fight against their illnesses. And there are people who tell them that they should equally embrace their situation as there are people who no longer have their children and they would just be happy for one last Christmas together.
We are brilliant at making the best of the hand we've been dealt but sometimes it's just necessary to say you want to fold the cards. Christmas Day was one of those days and in the interest of mental health, I'd encourage those that want to speak up and say it's been tough, to do so. Social media may be painting you a picture of perfection but there is a story behind each and every one.
So next Christmas, if I don't share your cheer and your excitement as your family prepare for Santa's arrival, please don't think I am not happy for you; I am. I don't need any pity for our current situation, just the understanding.
My Son is not yet in love with Christmas, but believe me when he is, we'll be hammering the hell out of it.
For now, it's just another day.